AFTERNOON TEA AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL
If you’re looking for something special to do this Mother’s Day, or any Thursday-Sunday, actually, look no further than Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City. I’ve had tea there two times recently and I can truly say it’s a special experience, whether or not you’ve ever had afternoon tea before.
First of all, I want to give them props for knowing that “afternoon” is the correct term–most people, very erroneously, refer to this meal as “high” tea. They must have been high when they first heard about it because what we in this country have as an afternoon treat is far from being “high tea.” High tea is basically a hearty supper that’s eaten after 6PM, and consists of manly peasant dishes, such as sausage rolls and meat pies. The InterContinental staff is one of the few I’ve encountered who know the difference. (Maybe that’s because Miranda House, their Director of Entertainment and Events, is herself English.)
No matter how nutty I am in other categories of life, I take my afternoon tea seriously, and consider myself a true expert in this field. So, when I tell you that this one is one of the best I’ve ever had, please trust me on it. And the warm, welcoming personnel are only the beginning.
The hotel has a separate room off the lobby dedicated to tea service only. Now that the weather is getting gorgeous, I believe you can also take tea (which is the official expression regarding it) in the hotel’s beautiful garden. I’ve been to many functions there (luncheons, cocktail parties, press conferences) and it’s really lovely and peaceful back there. (If you beg, they may even allow tea in the lobby lounge, but then you’ll miss some of the amazing presentations. I’ve done it both ways, and I definitely suggest the tea room itself for you first time.)
Jose and David, the gents who serve the tea, really know their stuff, let me tell you. They made us feel like serving us tea was their joy in life, and perhaps it is. Just ask Jose about cooking, and he lights up like a Christmas tree! You’ll get your own private cooking class while he creates the last part of the service. (But you’ll have to read on to see what that is.)
Another good thing about it is that you can either “Make Your Own Tea Set,” in case you don’t eat one component or just want a couple of specific items, or do their set tea service, which I highly recommend because it’s as relaxing as a day at the spa, and, at only $21.50/person (as of this writing, anyway,) it’s the meal bargain of the century! (Trust me–afternoon tea is usually a whole lot more money and a whole lot less fabulous!)
The InterContinental’s fare follows the set pattern for afternoon tea, (tea, sandwiches, scones, sweets,) but they embellish every aspect, and add one or two. Instead of just bringing you a pot of tea, or just teabags, they have a rolling tea cart set-up and serve only flowering teas. They describe each one and you get to see them in the raw before you choose. (We liked the Golden Jasmine the best, but we loved trying a different one each–you get one pot per person, which is really generous.)
[Note: Before we had this professional tea, I had just done a small tea at my house for the first group of friends who helped me while Mr. X was out-of-town, (and I was proud to see that I had done it as close to how this hotel does it as possible,) so I’m very familiar with flowering teas. They always wow the crowd.]
Another special touch is that everything is served on 25-year-old china, the kind that has to be hand-washed! Beautiful accent!
The tea sandwich category had something for everyone, and consisted of a variety of shapes, sizes, and breads. We loved them all, so I’ll let you and your friends have the fun of discovering them for yourselves. But I will tell you that even the sandwiches themselves are classier than elsewhere. And, though it’s not listed on the menu, they surprise you with an assortment of savory treats, such as mushroom and salmon mini-quiches. Yum!!!
Along with the next course of mini-scones, you get lemon cake and my favorite, zucchini bread. And then after you get the sweet treats that would usually finish out the meal, like bite-sized pecan pies and chocolates, you get one more really filling one, so save room because this part is truly special! Jose makes you fresh crepes right at your table!
You get a choice of mango jubilee, bananas foster, or crepe suzette, which is orangey and has Grand Marnier. (Again, you should each pick one and share. They’re very sweet and filling–I pour some cream over mine.) And you get to choose toppings, such as chocolate chips and cinnamon, and tell him exactly what you want right there–no going back and forth to the kitchen till they get it right, like at everyplace else.
I made so many notes of what we all said, but I really feel like you need to discover this wonderfulness for yourself. In this case, it would be like telling you every move at Cirque du Soleil–it’s better to see it for yourself with not many pre-conceived notions.
In addition to the truly marvelous and patient staff, and all the wonderful comestibles, I must laud them for one more thing–with the actual tea, they serve lemon, two kinds of sugar cubes, honey, milk, and CREAM! That last one is such a rarity! And to have all those choices is amazing–usual you get some sugar packets, period.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also put in a word about this hotel itself. The whole place is beautiful, and it’s welcoming from the beginning, which is unlike most other luxury hotels. The lobby scene seems to be happening at all times, for all age-groups, not just 20-somethings, and it’s two steps in to the lobby from the valet parking.
And, we saw some of the Idol contestants and their families there! I was seriously happy to see Andrew Garcia, the Moreno Valley local who, sadly and wrongfully, had gotten the boot the night before. But he was upbeat and agreeable, so we felt better about his premature leaving.
So, for the most special experience in all of Los Angeles, whether you go with a couple of friends, a crowd, or even yourself (afternoon tea lends itself to this actually–maybe bring a book,) head to Century City’s easy and classy InterContinental Hotel for afternoon tea. And please tell Jose and David hello for me!
2151 Avenue of Stars Century City 310-284-6500 www.intercontinentallosangeles.com